by Emily Irish at FASTCOMPANY
Congratulations! You just got hired for your first remote job. A world of possibilities just opened up to you: You can now work in your PJs at any hour. Set your own schedule. Remote workers have been shown to feel happier and more valued at work compared to all other workers, but there is a dark side as well.
Cross-time-zone communication, a lack of structure, more distractions, and isolation all threaten to overshadow the joys of remote work. But don’t worry–we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. This guide will walk you through the major challenges you will face in your remote job–and how to conquer them.
BALANCING WORK AND LIFE
You’re ready for work to finally be about what you do, not how long your butt is at your desk. But then you start to find yourself wondering if the day’s work was really enough. You push yourself just a little longer, a little later, and next thing you know, you’re working all day, stressed to the max, and fantasizing about that idyllic remote life you thought you were getting.
When you’re not punching in and out of work, it’s easy to feel guilty and end up overworking. In fact, remote workers tend to overwork, not underwork. To avoid overworking and burning yourself out, adopt the mentality that Popforms founder Kate Stull gained through painful trial and error:
“There is always more to do, and when you work remotely, there is no one to tell you to go home or that the office is closing, so it has to be YOU who decides when to stop.”
DEFINING YOUR PRIORITIES
On Monday mornings, define the most important priorities for your week. Every morning, define the 1-3 priorities for your day. This way, when the end of your day or week rolls around, you’ll be able to end your day with confidence, knowing you did the day’s most important work. Remote work is supposed to be a better way to make a work/life balance for yourself. So set boundaries. It’s important to get work done in a timely manner, but that doesn’t mean you need to be online or available 24/7.
EXPERIMENTING WITH YOUR SCHEDULE
When are you the most productive? When are you the least productive? You might not know the answers, but you should find out. Experiment with your days. Test different routines and a few different sets of working hours. Take notes on productivity, efficiency, and happiness so that you can “test” which schedules work best for you.
Maybe you do your best work in the early morning after a brisk exercise regimen. Maybe you’re a night owl and do your best if you can sleep in and start work later in the day. It’s okay to set different schedules for different days of the week! You have so much flexibility in this job–use it to find the rhythm that’s uniquely best for your work and productivity. Just make sure to keep your team up to date on your availability.
But even while you’re experimenting, you need to strictly enforce the schedule you set–even if you change it tomorrow. Work the hours you set for yourself, then make a clean break between work and home.
DRESSING FOR THE JOB
I love wearing my PJs as much as the next person, but there comes a point at which comfy goes too far. Taking care of your appearance is a sign of respect to yourself. It will make you feel more respected and more professional.